New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Science-Focused Theme Based Learning in Middle School

Sawsan Ailabouni, Davidson Institute for Science Education (Israel)

Aurelie Lachish-Zalait, The Davidson Institute for Science Education (Israel)

Abstract

Today's educational requirements focus on preparing students for the 21st century climate of change and innovation, where skills such as creativity and flexible thinking are increasingly valued. Literature is full of educational approaches intended to replace traditional methods. However, bringing these progressive ideas to schools is no light matter. Many teachers are reluctant to change their teaching methods and, more profoundly, schools in general are not designed, and not directed towards implementing such new ideas.
Project-Based Learning (PBL) is an educational approach in which students acquire knowledge and skills by investigating complex questions and real-world problems. PBL requires teachers to shift from being a presenter of knowledge, to being a promoter of learning. An essential factor for sustainable PBL in schools is an infrastructure, and a local leadership, that will support its implementation and long-term operation. We present here a program aimed at developing and implementing multidisciplinary, science-focused PBL in regular middle schools, working with the general state syllabi.
The program is a three years process - it starts in its first year with teachers of the 7th grade classes and grows to the 8th and the 9th grades in the subsequent years. Teachers of all disciplines, engage in a year-long professional development course, and a leading group of discipline coordinators and science teachers steer the process in monthly meetings with our experts.   
Since we aim at creating a meaningful learning experience for students, and a language affiliated to all disciplines, the management, and the leading group of teachers, determine an organizing axis and a set of three related themes for each grade. The themes have to be consistent with the school's agenda and with the science syllabus. Teachers of each discipline link the themes to phenomena encountered by students in their daily life and related to scientific, curricular subjects.
We will describe our experience in implementing such an intensive program in middle school, including the challenges and successes and current feedbacks from teachers and students.

KeywordsPBL, project, Teachers, Science, Junior High School, Multi-disciplinary;

References

[1] B.J.S. Schwartz,D.L. Vye,N.J. Moore,A. Petrosino,A. Zech,L. Bransford, J.D. Technology Group at Vanderbilt(1998). “Doing with understanding: Lessons from research on problem and project-based learning”. Journal of the Learning Sciences 727131.
[2] Hung,W.(2011). “Theory to reality: a few issues in implementing problem-based learning”, Education Tech Research.(59),529-552.
[3] Ertmer,P. A., & Simons,K.D.(2006). “Scaffolding teachers’ efforts to implement problem-based learning. International Journal of Learning”. 12(4),319–327.
[4] Ram,A. (2013). “Project based learning”, Hed-Hachinuch, Israeli Teachers' Union (in Hebrew). 
[5] Lachish-Zalait,A. et.al, “The educational arm of the Weizmann Institute of Science”, In this conference proceedings.

 

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